Two weekends ago, I saw Happy Days, Samuel Beckett’s play about Winnie who is buried up to her breasts in Act 1 and up to her neck in Act 2 and how she cheerfully makes the best of a horrifying situation, as her death literally engulfs her, with minimal companionship and assistance from her grunting partner, Willie. I had read the play in college and had always wanted to see how it was done on stage, and it was a real treat to see this fine production at the Theater at Boston Court in Pasadena that featured a stunningly realistic portrayal of Winnie by Brooke Adams.
Seeing the production brought up a couple memories.
I had read the play when I took a course on Beckett, in which we read nearly if not all of his works. By the end of the quarter, I found myself thinking like a blabbering idiot, my thoughts taking the form of rants and mumblings with constantly repeated phrases and circular reasoning. It was not unlike when I took a course on Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and ended up thinking in rhymes.
Some years earlier, when my family was living in London for a year, I read Waiting for Godot in school and gave it to my mom after I was done. When she read it, she was furious! She couldn’t understand why Beckett had written it and kept asking me, with considerable bitterness, “What does it mean?” outraged that there was no resolution, no Godot, at the end. Which was exactly Beckett’s point.
Also, I happened to see Pomona College’s production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya a few weeks ago. I had never seen or read the play. At the risk of sounding ignorant, it really struck me that Chekhov really wasn’t that far from Beckett and the theater of the absurd, with his characters going on about how miserable they are and how they have to endure, albeit in a more conventional setting. (I also loved having seen Durang’s Chekhov take-off, Vanya, Sonia, Mosha and Spike, earlier this year at the Mark Taper Forum.)